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Rod Serling

Updated on January 5, 2015
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Nerd, cinephile, TV-junky, research-loving, left-leaning, science-fiending, atheist from the gutter. Follow me on Twitter @TheGutterMonkey.

You unlock this door with the key of imagination...

Long before Rod Serling became a household name, he was a boxer, a soldier, and an actor. But it was with 1959's The Twilight Zone that he shined the brightest and let his true voice, virtues, politics, and all around social commentary be known.

Beginning his career in radio, Serling later went on to become a significant screenwriter for television, where he wrote "Patterns" and "Requiem for a Heavyweight," (both of which were later turned into films). Serling's relationship with networks was a rocky one though. He was constantly battling with censors and sponsors who didn't want to be associated with anything too controversial that might make them look bad to buyers. Tired of seeing his scripts butchered (removing any political statements, ethnic identities, even the Chrysler Building being removed from a script sponsored by Ford), Serling decided the only way to avoid such artistic interference was to create his own show. This is around the time he devolved the fantasy/science-fiction anthology series The Twilight Zone.

Collaborating with such talented and revered writers as Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, The Twilight Zone was an instant success with critics and gained a loyal fanbase (although it had a slow start in the beginning with the general public; cancelled twice only to be revived). In the show, Serling also made it a point to incorporate many of his progressive social views on racial relations, feminism, politics, Cold War paranoia and the horrors of war, and other parables that were somewhat veiled by the science fiction and fantasy elements of the shows. The show ran for 5 years and consisted of a total of 156 episodes, 92 of which Serling wrote himself.

After The Twilight Zone had ended its run in 1964, Rod Serling went on to work on other television series such as the short-lived The Loner, a version of the game show Liar's Club, and finally went back to his roots with the Twilight Zone-esque horror series Night Gallery, which he hosted and wrote over a third of the scripts for. By season three, however, Serling began to see many of his script contributions rejected and flat-out butchered. With his complaints ignored, the disgruntled host dismissed the show as "Mannix in a cemetery".

As host of The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, Rod Serling's face, recognizable way of speaking, mannerisms, and idiosyncrasies became well known by the general public, and his image and legacy remain to be a staple in the world of media and popular culture to this day.

Things you may not know about Rod Serling

Did you know...

  • As a Golden Gloves boxer, Rod broke his nose twice. He won 17 out 18 matches. He lost his championship fight.
  • He co-wrote Planet of the Apes.
  • He usually dictated his scripts into a tape recorder and had his secretary type them up.
  • Military decorations from the Second World War include: World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with Arrowhead Device), Good Conduct Medal, Phillippine Liberation Medal (with 1 bronze service star), Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, and Honorable Service Lapel Pin. Also retroactively authorized the Bronze Star Medal, based on receipt of the Combat Infantryman Badge during the Second World War.
  • Serling was ranked #1 in TV Guide's list of the "25 Greatest Sci-Fi Legends" (in the August 1, 2004 issue). He was also the only real-life person on the list. All the others were fictitious characters.
  • The Twilight Zone is not the only Serling work to reappear throughout the years. In 1994, Rod Serling's Lost Classics released two never-before-seen works that Carol Serling found in her garage. The first was an outline called "The Theatre" that Richard Matheson expanded. The second was a complete script written by Serling titled "Where the Dead Are".
  • Struggling to make ends meet, a young Serling earned extra income by testing experimental parachutes for the U.S. Army Air Force, earning $500 per jump.
  • He wanted Richard Egan to do the narration for "Twilight Zone" (1959) because of his rich, deep voice. However, due to strict studio contracts of the time, Egan was unable to. Serling said "It's Richard Egan or no one. It's Richard Egan, or I'll do the thing myself," which is exactly what happened.
  • He was quoted as saying: "If you need drugs to be a good writer, you're not a good writer."

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The Twilight Zone: Deaths-Head Revisited (Twilight Zone (Walker Paperback))
The Twilight Zone: Deaths-Head Revisited (Twilight Zone (Walker Paperback))

Location: Dachau concentration camp, years after World War II. A retired German SS captain returns to reminisce about his days in powerâuntil he finds himself at the mercy of those he tortured, on trial by those who died at his hands. Justice will finally be served . . . in the Twilight Zone. One of most ground-breaking shows in the history of television, The Twilight Zone has become a permanent fixture in pop culture. This new graphic novel series re-imagines the showâs most enduring episodes, in all their original uncut glory, originally written by Rod Serling himself, and now adapted for a new generationâa generation that has ridden Disneyâs Twilight Zone Tower of TerrorTM ride, studied old episodes in school, watched the annual marathons, and paid homage to the show through the many random take-offs that show up in movies and TV shows everywhere.

Rod Serling's Night Gallery Collector's Edition: Vol. XI
Rod Serling's Night Gallery Collector's Edition: Vol. XI

Four Episodes.. The Dark Boy starring Elizabeth Hartman directed by John Astin, Keep In Touch- We'll Think of Something starring Alex Cord and Joanna Pettet, The Waiting Room starring Buddy Ebsen, Steve Forrest, Jim Baker and Last Rites for a Dead Druid starring Bill Bixby, Carol Lynley, Donna Douglas

Spaceships and Politics: The Political Theory of Rod Serling
Spaceships and Politics: The Political Theory of Rod Serling

Spaceships and Politics: The Political Theory of Rod Serling examines the political themes in The Twilight Zone. In this unique show, Rod Serling used fantasy and the supernatural to explore political ideas such as capital punishment, the individual and the state, war, conformity, the state of nature, prejudice, and alienation. He used aliens and machines to understand human nature. While the themes in The Twilight Zone often reflected political concerns of the time, like the Cold War and post-industrial technology, the messages had broader political implications. This book looks at Serling's mechanistic view of the world and emphasis on fear through Hobbesian themes like diffidence and automata.


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    • Leland Johnson profile image

      Leland Johnson 3 years ago from Midland MI

      You did a great job on this subject! I am very interested in learning more about Serling and your hub piqued my curiosity even more. I find it fascinating that he was in favor of racial and gender equality in a time when it was not the popular way to think. He often featured women and people of color in his episodes and proved that color or gender have nothing to do with the ability to act. Thanks again for all the interesting information and I also appreciate the concise manner in which you write. I'm taking note of it. God bless.

    • EEWorkouts profile image

      EEWorkouts 6 years ago

      There is Hitchcock and there is Serling. We don't really have anything like them now.

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 6 years ago from Albany New York

      I loved Twilight Zone. I had no idea that Rod wrote a lot of the scripts. He is one of a kind, for sure. Nice lens.